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Connecting Borders and Cultures

11 Sep 2014 | Cpl. Brendan King Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – In order to expand multi-national cooperation, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma has continued to embrace numerous international military pilots and become their temporary home.

Lt. Joaquin Fernandez de los Rios, a pilot with the Spanish Navy, is part of an exclusive group of Spanish naval pilots that have attached to Marine Attack Squadron 311, aboard MCAS Yuma, to train and build rapport with allies in arms.

“I love it,” said Fernandez, a native of Rota, Spain. “Yuma offers pilots an opportunity that you could never receive anywhere Europe. It’s some of the most realistic combat flying I have ever been a part of.”

Fernandez has been working with Marines for over a year, and has experienced a new side of military aviation. Through flying over 500 hours in a AV-8B Harrier II with VMA-311, he has witnessed the strength of the Marine Corps air-to-ground collaboration.

“The biggest difference I see in Marine aviation … is how the number one goal is to support the troops on the ground,” said Fernandez. “Everything has to run in unison to complete the mission.”

For the next month and half, Fernandez will be training with VMA-311 in Alaska during Exercise Red Flag. When he returns, he will then attach to VMA-214 and spend 10 months with the Black Sheep before returning to Spain.

Growing up, Fernandez’s uncle told him stories of U.S. Marines, and he knew he wanted to work with them someday. He also knew at the age of four that he wanted to be a pilot.

“I love this job, and I love working with U.S. Marines,” said Fernandez. “I’m going to keep being a Spanish Navy pilot as long they grant me the privilege to do so. I mean, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Why wouldn’t I?”

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